Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - What Is Tacitus? [UPDATED]

Activision have released yet more teaser material for their upcoming Call of Duty project: but what the devil does "Tacitus" mean?

[UPDATE: Howard Coale - the man formerly behind Tacitus, apparently - got back to me. Thanked me for being "by far the most articulate" emailed he had had so far ("and there have been a lot"), and apologised for not being able to say anything. Offered the caveat that all would become clear soon. So that's a fairly clear indication that the website is indeed linked to Black Ops 2 then. Among the recently declassified images on the official Call of Duty website is on featuring a single word, red on a black background, reading simple: "Tacitus". While the other images and videos - one showing the much-mentioned quadrotor drone, another featuring coordinates, two quotes alluding to a worldwide and future setting and a final one showing what appears to be a UAV, and the rotor blades of the same quadrotor drone - the Tacitus image is probably the most vague of all. Does it refer to a Roman historian? A lunar crater? An asteroid? A data analysis company that was once, and apparently will be again? No-one really has much concrete evidence, which just leaves my favourite part of journalism... peddling wild conjecture. Here are some possibilities, for what the Tacitus tease might mean...

Black Ops 2 Will Feature British And/Or Asian Missions...

Tacitus was a historian, who focused on the life and exploits of his father-in-law Agricola, a Roman general who is generally held as one of the chief figures in the Roman conquest of Britain. In his earlier military career, Agricola was also stationed in the province of Asia, before taking a command post in Britain. Either location could be featured in the upcoming game, especially given the hints at multiple Asian settings of those shady coordinates on the COD site...

Civil War & Military Coups?

But then that is perhaps all together too straight-forward, and in the interest of the detective spirit, I prefer to get a little more convoluted. Agricola's campaigns in Britain, as documented by Tacitus, were defined by a period of massive unrest and upheaval: civil war reigned, before a chaotic succession of four emperors in a single year, in a historical plot worthy of the grandest Shakespearean tragedy. Crucially for us, and for Black Ops 2, it was a period of internal rebellion, of rival imperial candidates and even more intriguingly of the army against the state, and the unrest is very much appropriate in regard to the "The enemy could be anywhere, and it could be anyone" message posted on the COD site. At this stage, it's all just guesswork, and perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but Black Ops could well include a military coup storyline, presumably linked to either civil war or a terrorist threat (hence the drones and UAV).

Tacitus Will Be An In-Game Weapons Developer

The other pressing issue linked to the Tacitus name is the presence of a website:, which is the home of The Tacitus Project and carries a message calling it "A visionary project... a league of heroic (and occasionally eccentric) minds from a host of different fields, from different countries, in different industries, institutions, companies and universities - experts in Biological research, Genomics, Astrophysics, Global Markets, Risk Analytics, Immersive Data Visualization and Skateboarding". Get any meaning from that? Well, then, you're a better person than me. So what's the link? Well, Tacitus has so far appeared in the FPSRussia video showcasing the quadrotor drone that kicked off the teaser campaign (on the controller's T-shirt), and the explicit link of the video and the slogan could well suggest that the company will appear as am in-game weapons tech/killstreak developer. The website apparently and rather coincidentally also carried the following message for a while:
"Black Ops 2: Weapons manufacturer in the game. Not us."
But I'm not really buying it. There was no suggestion at all that Tacitus was to be a weapons developer up until this point, and there is just too much in the site's message (and the coincidental lack of actual content on the site) for there not to be a link. My money is on there being a link to Black Ops 2, in the same way that the Portal 2 viral campaign established Aperture Science as a real company, and I would be interested to know which marketing company was behind the Portal 2 campaign, as there are definitely parallels to be drawn with this one - set-up by Tribal Fusion as far as I can gather. And I care not that there apparently was a legitimate company called Tacitus at one stage, supposedly dealing in the complex business of data (a good way to bamboozle yourself is to try and work out exactly what Tacitus were involved in (you can find a cached version of some of their pages here). To me, that's just clever long-tail marketing, and it's pretty much confirmed by the fact that Tacitus' former president Howard Coale now works at Sapient Global Markets, owner of SapientNitro -otherwise known as the company responsible for MW3's digital marketing . I did send Mr Coale a fishing email, to try and draw out a response on the Tacitus issue (asking him to confirm the history of Tacitus as a former employee), and have received no response as yet, but time will tell if he takes the bait. Probably not. Oh, and the "Discovery comes from play" tagline has nothing to do with the old Tacitus company, and is so loaded it's practically bloody toppling over. Oh and the logo looks suspiciously like the Treyarch symbol. Decide for yourself...

Tacitus Is The Codename for Elite 2

The suggestion is two-fold: Tacitus was a chronicler of famous soldiers, and wartime achievements, the exact functions of Call of Duty's Elite system, and there's also the small matter of the text from that afore-mentioned Tacitus website, which first refers to a "league of heroic (and occasionally eccentric) minds", and then says this:
In 2012-2013 we're building a global collaborative project focused on prototyping ground-breaking tools for deriving insight from the most complex datasets on Earth.
Sounds suspiciously like that could refer to an updated Elite system to me... Anyway, what do I know, eh? I'm just stringing together bits of information at this stage. Do you have your own theories regarding the mysterious Tacitus logo or some thoughts on what I've written above? Share them below... Have you ever wanted to write about video games? Get in touch to find out about our contributor programme. Email our Gaming Editor on for more info.

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